The opening scene pans San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside (Raymond Burr) complains about having to attend the Police Commissioner's committee meeting, and asks his young assistant,Mark Sanger(Don Mitchell),to bring him coffee.
Before leaving,Ironside receives a disquieting telephone message.The caller states that"unless(Ironside)does something about it,he will commit a murder." Ironside fears a sniper attack,scanning windows and rooftops as he and Sanger drive through San Francisco.At the meeting,Ironside receives another call and orders it traced.
The caller(a young man)counsels Ironside to believe him,stating next time,he'll describe how he'll do it.
Ironside deduces the call came from within the Municipal Building(where he is presently),and that the target phone is within 10 minutes of his immediate location.
Ironside and Mark find a public phone in the lobby,but "Hank"(a female concessionaire)says it is out of order.
Within seconds,Ironside receives another call at "Hank's Boutique."The taunting voice predicts Ironside won't be able to stop him.He justifies threatening murder by"doing it to secure justice."The voice finally assures Ironside he'll tell him when.
Fellow detectives Eve Whitfield(Barbara Anderson)and Ed Brown(Don Galloway)analyze the situation:the killer ambivalently wants to kill, but is crying "catch me before I kill."Mark,however,fears the caller is trying to lure Ironside outside to kill him.
The Police Commissioner calls Ironside.Terrified they are the potential victim, many people have inundated the police with names of "suspects." Ironside receives calls when the police aren't with him,so he has Sanger drive him around San Francisco in the van,then leaves it unattended, with Ironside inside,alone.
Mark checks out the surrounding area.The van phone rings;Ironside switches on a tape recorder.
Predictably,the caller waited until Ironside was alone;he tells Ironside the murder location:"where the park meets the bay." Later Eve,Mark,and Ironside listen to the tape.Ironside figures the caller has a car phone,but no numbers called went through the mobile operator.
Mark and Eve agree the voice is neutral,redolent of a radio announcer. Ironside suggests they investigate all such Bay area schools and students.
Next day,Ironside and Mark head to the place"where the park meets the bay." The van phone starts ringing, while Mark is outside.The caller is changing his plan;he's going to commit murder the next day,no later than midnight - and "make it look like an accident." When Ironside expresses frustration over finding the caller before his murderous deadline,Mark jokes that perhaps the suspect has a phone in his pocket
triggering a brainstorm in Ironside.
He and Mark visit a dealer who sells an attaché case with a portable phone inside.The coded calls no longer go through the mobile operator.
The number calling Ironside,WP56715,is assigned to a salesman,Eddie Street - young,in his early 20's,with a soft voice(like Ironside's caller.) Ironside searches Eddie Street's vacant rental room,finding a sugar packet from a downtown grill.
Ironside questions a waitress there about Eddie Street;she calls the owner,Vern Emmerich,who cannot give Ironside any leads about Street, either.
As Mark is driving,Ironside notices a street sign,Eddy Street,close to Emmerich's café - obliquely pointing a finger at Emmerich.
Ironside is startled to hear an individual named Charles Borrow dropped out of his radio announcer class.
In 1955,Police Sgt. Charles Borrow,Sr.shot and killed a burglary suspect (presumably armed),though later determined to have been unarmed.Borrow insisted a witness could exonerate him.The witness,however,vanished,and Borrow was fired.
Ironside goes to visit Mrs. Borrow,who informs him her husband died several years before.
Her son,Charles Jr.left home four years earlier at age 18,and would be 22 now - the right age of the suspected caller.
Ironside confronts Emmerich,who provides an alibi for events happening 15 years before.
Ed is dispatched to surveille Emmerich.Ed calls in:Emmerich has fled for the airport in the airport bus.Ironside orders him to follow Emmerich and leaves also.
On the bus,a well-dressed young man sits behind a fidgety Emmerich. Ironside wants the police to stop the bus.Ed is standing at the back.
The young man leans over and whispers to Emmerich:"You'll never make it to the airport." Police cars pursue the bus, sirens and lights blazing...
Emmerick looks green.The young man leans forward,again,murmuring: "Time is running out."Emmerich winces,squirming in his seat.
As the bus grinds to a halt,surrounded by police cars,the young man hisses:"This is it,buster." Terrified,a wild-eyed Emmerich shrieks:"No! NO!",opens the emergency door,propels himself onto the highway,and is yanked to his feet by waiting police officers.
Ironside confronts Emmerich,who screams: "A man wants to kill me!" Ironside orders him arrested,then addresses young Borrow:"You thought we wouldn't make it." Borrow replies: "I was getting a little worried." Back at Ironside's apartment,Borrow, Jr.(Ironside's mystery caller) admits he concocted his war of nerves to trap Emmerich,because evidence pointed to Emmerich as the witness who wouldn't admit it(since he was the car thief/hit-and-run driver.) Ironside informs Charles the Commissioner will decide what charges Charles may face for his disruptive actions.Charles Borrow looks crestfallen until Ironside orders him to call his mother and tell her he is all right.Charles grins, and starts dialing...
The two guest stars gave this episode its special appeal.
Character actor Dane Clark(Vern Emmerich)imparted to his role the sense of cowardly desperation felt by a shifty individual,whose dark secret was known by someone intent upon killing him over it.
As Charles Borrow,Jr.(son of the wrongfully-disgraced police officer), Barry Brown's characterization was superior,as were all his performances in a promising career - sadly, cut short by an early death.
I highly recommend this tensely thrilling episode of "Ironside."
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